Delaware County will usher in the New Year with new animal control policies.
The changes could make finding a lost pet more complicated - especially for residents in seven of the county's 49 municipalities who have chosen to chart their own course.
As of Sunday, the Delaware County SPCA will no longer take in stray animals. The privately run shelter announced in 2010 it would become a "no-kill" facility by 2012 and focus on adoptions and educational programs. The shelter will continue to accept pets turned over by owners.
The shelter's decision left the county's 49 municipalities scrambling to find a solution to accomodate stray animals.
The nine-member Animal Protection Board, a non-profit corporation set up by the county to run the shelter, signed an agreement Thursday with Chester County SPCA to take in stray cats and dogs until the new shelter is built.
"We can breath a temporarily sign of relief," said Thomas J. Judge Jr., head of the board and chief administrative officer of Upper Darby Township. Finding a short-term home for the strays "is step one in a multi-step process" until the new facility is up and running.
The Municipal Animals Shelter, located in Darby Township, is expected to open in May and cost an estimated $1.2 million. A search for a shelter director is ongoing.
In the meantime, to report a lost or found animal, county officials advise residents to call 911. County dispatchers will have a log of recently reported strays.
Getting an animal home will mean a trip to the West Chester-based SPCA, located at 1212 Phoenixville Pike to claim the lost pet. The cost to the owner will be $25 for the first day the pet is held and $10 for each day thereafter, said Kathryn Sippel, operations manager, at the Chester County SPCA.
But, if the animal lives - or was found - in one of the seven municipalities that chose not to join the group, the game changes.
Chadds Ford Township, Chester Township, Colwyn Borough, Lower Chichester Township, Milbourne Borough, Radnor Township, and Rutledge Borough as yet have not agreed to participate in the new Municipal Animal Shelter.
Those municipalities will need to find a safe place to house the animals for the first 48 hours. After that, the dogs or cats must be kept in a state certified kennel.
Not all kennels are approved by the state to take in strays, said Samantha Krepps, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture. The state will investigate situations where municipalities are found using unapproved facilities.
William Colarulo, Radnor Superintendent of Police, said township officials have a tentative agreement to house stray animals with a Radnor Veterinary Hospital and Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals. The township found 16 strays in 2011, 14 returned to their owners within two days.
A wrinkle for Radnor, however, is that those facilities are not state approved, according to Krepps.
Calls to the other six municipalities were not returned.
Using the Chester County SPCA as a temporary solution comes at a price for the county's Animal Protection Board.
There is a monthly fee of $30,000, which Judge said the county has agreed to lend the board.
Municipalities will be charged $1250 to cover the first five animals and $250 for each thereafter. Exotic pets are not part of the plan. It will be up to local officials to enforce any fines to recoup their costs, said Judge.